On Friday, the NHL named the three finalists for the 2010 Norris Trophy: Drew Doughty of the Los Angeles Kings, Mike Green of the Washington Capitals, and Duncan Keith of the Chicago Blackhawks.
The James Norris Memorial Trophy is presented annually “to the defense player who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-round ability in the position.” The winner is selected in a poll by the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association at the end of the regular season.
Doughty and Keith spent the majority of the 2010 Winter Olympics playing with each other on the blue line for Canada, while Green watched from home. If Doughty were to win the award this year, he would be the second-youngest player in the history of the award to win it, just months older than Bobby Orr (who was also 20 when he won his first of eight Norris Trophies).
Keith, the oldest of the three nominees at only 26, received his first nomination. He ended the regular season with career-highs in goals (14), assists (55) and points (69), including three power-play goals, in 82 games. His point total was second among all NHL defensemen behind Green, but he led all NHL defensemen in goals (10), assists (38) and points (48) at even-strength. Keith also led all defensemen with five shorthanded points (1 goal, 4 assists), and ranked second among all defensemen with 15 multi-point contests, and earned a +21 rating.
While Keith’s offensive explosion this season has certainly been a wonderful surprise, what Blackhawks fans have come to expect is exceptional play on the blue line for a lot of minutes per night. Keith was credited with 143 blocked shots this season, and ranked second in the NHL averaging 26:35 of ice time per game. Keith topped 30 minutes in a game eight times, including a team season-high of 32:40 March 14 against Washington (the game in which Brian Campbell was injured). He averaged 2:58 on the penalty kill and 2:48 on the power play per game.
In his fifth season, Keith’s 69 points were the most by a Hawks defenseman since Chris Chelios tallied 72 points in 1995-96. If he wins the Norris, Keith would join Chelios, Doug Wilson and Pierre Pilote as just the fourth representative of Chicago’s Original Six franchise to be named the league’s top defenseman. The winner will be announced at the 2010 NHL Awards, in Las Vegas, on June 23.